House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Toronto—Danforth (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Chief Electoral Officer September 20th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the F-35 is not the only file where the Conservatives have fallen down on the job. Six months ago, they voted in favour of our motion urging the government to expand the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer.

The deadline has arrived. When will the government take action?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 17th, 2012

With respect to the recently published document Building Resilience against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy (“the Strategy”) and the testimony on June 2, 2012, of the Minister of Public Safety and two of his officials before the Public Safety Committee on the Strategy: (a) what was the process by which the Strategy was planned and generated, from date of conception (i.e. when it was decided to produce a strategy document) to the date of release, including (i) which unit, branch or agency within the Department of Public Safety took the lead, and what other units, branches or agencies of the Department were closely involved, (ii) were other departments consulted and, if so, which units, branches or agencies within those departments were involved; (b) did the planning process for the Strategy include conducting ‘lessons learned’ or similar reviews or studies of counter-terrorism policy and operations since September 11, 2001, including with respect to intelligence policy and operations in Afghanistan, and/or were reviews or studies that were done outside the Strategy’s own planning process drawn upon in formulating the Strategy, including with respect to Afghanistan; (c) with respect to studies and reviews mentioned in (b), (i) what are their names or titles, (ii) on which dates were they conducted, (ii) what were the authoring governmental units, branches or agencies responsible for the said studies and reviews; (d) have there been reviews or studies of lessons learned from the Afghanistan experience that will be used for future counter-terrorism policy, notably with respect to how counter-terrorist intelligence interacts with military operations and imperatives; (e) did the reviews and studies referred to in (d) include a review or a study of the lessons learned with respect to the interaction of CSIS operatives who were in theatre with Defence Intelligence, Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and other intelligence operatives who were also working in theatre; (f) has the Security and Intelligence Review Committee conducted reviews and studies on the role of CSIS in Afghanistan including, but not limited to, reviews and studies relevant to CSIS relations to the National Directorate of Security concerning transfer and interrogation of detainees; (g) what was the nature, timing and process of each review or study identified in (f), and what are the details regarding the relevant documents or summaries; (h) has the government conducted a review to identify what can be learned concerning what the Strategy identifies as the challenge of “increasing interaction with non-traditional partners” (p. 17) as a result of the interactions of CSIS, Defence Intelligence and CSEC with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), and, if so, what are the lessons learned or conclusions of any such review; (i) with regard to the recommendations in the recent Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture, will the government implement any aspects of Justice O’Connor’s Arar Inquiry report with respect to oversight of intelligence agencies, including RCMP intelligence, in addition to measures already taken, and (i) if so, which aspects, (ii) if not, why not; (j) given that on page 9 of the Strategy “environmentalism” is listed as one advocacy area that can generate “extremism” leading to terrorism, has the government concluded that any environmental group currently present in Canada is “extremist” in this sense; (k) does the mandate of the integrated national security enforcement team include the protection of the Canadian oil and gas industry and its employees from environmental “extremism” that turns into terrorism, as described in the Strategy; (l) in its planning process for the Strategy, did the government study how Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), and specifically its clause to repeal section 13 of the Canada Human Rights Act, could affect the Strategy’s goal of establishing “stronger laws against ... hate propaganda” (p. 32), and, if so, what were the government’s conclusions; (m) is Bill C-30, An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, an important part of Canada’s counter-terrorism strategy, and, if so, why was it not included in the Strategy; (n) is Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, an important part of Canada’s counter-terrorism strategy, and, if so, why was it not included in the Strategy; (o) will further legislation be put forward to implement the Strategy and, if so, on what matters and with what purposes; (p) with respect to the the Strategy’s statement concerning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the importance that the group is “not allowed to rebuild in Canada in order to engage in terrorist activities,” (p.8) , (i) why does the Strategy refer to conduct that predated the end of the civil war in 2009 (i.e. the 2008 conduct of an LTTE fundraiser, for which he was convicted after the war in 2010) to illustrate the concern about the LTTE rebuilding, (ii) does the government possess information that suggests that the LTTE is in the process of rebuilding in Canada for purpose of terrorist activities; and (q) has Canada ever accepted communications intelligence from one of the traditional “Five Eyes” allies mentioned in Minister Toews’ testimony from June 5, 2012, where that intelligence consisted of communications that took place between persons both or all of whom were within Canada at the time the communications occurred?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 17th, 2012

With respect to the government’s investigation of potential human rights abuses related to the transfer of Afghan detainees from the custody of Canadian Forces to the government of Afghanistan, especially the National Security Directorate (NDS): (a) do the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister automatically receive either copies of or briefings on the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)’s annual human rights reports on Afghanistan; (b) if so, has this practice of automatically receiving copies or briefings always existed; (c) if not, when did this practice start; (d) once knowledge of human rights abuses within the NDS became known, did the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and/or the Minister of Defence order copies of or briefings on the DFAIT annual human rights report on Afghanistan; (e) if not, does the practice of not reading or being briefed on the DFAIT human rights report on Afghanistan continue to this day; (f) following the April 23, 2007, Globe and Mail article by Graeme Smith on transferred detainees as victims of mistreatment within NDS facilities, did the government seek to verify the alleged experiences of the people interviewed by Smith and, if so, (i) what precise measures were taken, (ii) by whom, (iii) for how long and until when did these measures last; (g) consistent with the book The Savage War by Murray Brewster (page 276), did lawyers representing the government while simultaneously representing military police involved in the Military Police Complaints Commission’s hearings on Afghan detainees “t[ake] their direction from senior levels inside the civil service”, and, if so, (i) did this include one or more officials within the Privy Council Office (PCO), (ii) is this normal practice, (iii) what are the guidelines for how Department of Justice lawyers receive direction from outside the Department of Justice, particularly from PCO officials; (h) in relation to Afghan detainee issues, have government lawyers ever received instructions, directions or representations from staff, at any level, within the Prime Minister’s Office; (i) did Amnesty International suggest to NATO and/or the government that one way to ensure no torture of detainees would occur would be to embed soldiers or military police in Afghan facilities and, if so, (i) was this option considered (ii) why was it not adopted if it was considered; (j) why did the government decide to approach the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to start monitoring transferred detainees under the December 2005 arrangement, leading to the February 20, 2007 agreement with AIHRC; (k) did the government do an assessment of AIHRC’s capacity to engage in this role and, if so, what were the results of this assessment; (l) with respect to the testimony of David Mulroney before the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan that Canada could not find evidence of former Kandahar Governor Khalid having a detention facility in or next to his compound, exactly what efforts were undertaken to investigate this matter, (i) by what actors, (ii) using what methods, (iii) on how many occasions; (m) did the government of Canada ever receive information from the AIHRC conveying a belief that Khalid operated a private jail and, if so, did the AIHRC also convey a belief that mistreatment of prisoners took place there; (n) for what reasons was the government of Canada unable to verify whether such a jail existed; (o) when the head of the AIHRC, Canada’s partner in monitoring detainees, “estimated publicly... that approximately one-third of the prisoners handed over ended up being tortured” (Brewster, The Savage War, page 67), (i) what was the government’s response to this information, (ii) was this deemed a credible estimate and, if not, why not; (p) after the statement in (n) was made, was it the government’s policy that it was lawful to transfer detainees; (q) did any communications occur within the Canadian Forces or the government about the concerns expressed by military police official Major Kevin Rowcliffe about the torture of detainees and what actions did the government take in response to Major Rowcliffe’s testimony before the Military Police Complaints Commission; and (r) has either DFAIT or PCO ever conducted an analysis or assessment of the NDS and, if so, what was the subject-matter of the analysis or assessment?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 17th, 2012

With respect to the answer of the Minister of the Environment in the House of Commons on June 13, 2012, that “[a]t this point my officials have advised me that none of the triggers required to spark a federal intervention have been, or are likely to be, tripped” with respect to the application of 3191574 Nova Scotia Company, operating as The Highland Companies, for a 2,316 acre open-pit limestone quarry to be situated on lands they own in Melancthon Township, Dufferin County, Ontario: (a) what government units are the source of this advice and on what date or dates was this advice received; (b) does this advice concern (i) federal environmental law in force as of June 13, 2012, (ii) prospective federal environmental law as it will stand once changes in the Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, enter into force, or (iii) both (i) and (ii), (c) what is the significance of the Minister’s proviso “at this point,” and does the advice given “at this point” concern the planned quarry or only current use of the land by the owners of the land; (d) what are the reasons that current federal environmental law environmental assessment provisions are viewed as not being triggered; (e) will environmental assessment under federal environmental law as it will be changed by Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be triggered with respect to use of the land as a quarry, and, if not, why not; (f) what form did the advice received by Minister Kent take; (g) considering Minister Kent’s reference to the future with the word “likely”, will further advice be provided to the Minister in the future, and, if so, what will determine when and how this advice is given; (h) within any of the advice so far provided, what view was taken on each of the following as potential reasons for federal environmental assessment, (i) the fact that the area is the headwaters for five rivers, (ii) the fact that those rivers empty into the Great Lakes system, (iii) the fact that waters pumped out of the below-water-table quarry will be pumped back into the water table, with possible resultant contamination, (iv) the status of much of the land as amongst the most arable land in Canada, with corresponding relevance for national and global food security, (v) the fact that the area is the source of a high percentage of potatoes for the Toronto area and that loss of this source of potatoes will likely increase the distance which replacement potatoes have to travel, thus increasing transportation use with a knock-on impact on carbon emissions, (vi) the existence of trout in some or all of the rivers, (vii) the area as habitat for undomesticated animal and bird species, (viii) the impacts on humans living in or adjacent to the area; (i) in what ways will impending changes to environmental law affect the advice given as per the answers to (h)(i) through (h)(viii); (j) with respect to (h) and (i), what sources of information did the advisors to the Minister rely upon and did any of that information come from (i) proponents of the quarry, identifying the entities or persons, (ii) opponents of the quarry, identifying the entities or persons; (k) has the federal government consulted with the government of Ontario with respect to whether or not federal environmental law applies, and, if so, when did the consultations occur and what was the position taken by Ontario; (l) has the government received any factual or other data relevant to the lands and project in question from the government of Ontario, and, if so, what is the nature of this data; (m) has the government had any interaction with 3191574 Nova Scotia Company, operating as The Highland Companies, or any person or organization advocating or lobbying on its behalf and, if so, what was the subject matter and outcome of such interactions; (n) is there any foreign ownership of 3191574 Nova Scotia Company, operating as The Highland Companies, and, if so, are there any implications for Canadian foreign investment law of acquisition and use of the land for purposes of operating a quarry; (o) assuming that conversion of the land in question from arable food-producing land to quarry land will have impacts on interprovincial and/or international trade and commerce, does the government have jurisdiction to legislate in order to prevent or limit conversion of arable to non-arable uses; and (p) in the event that the loss of arable land to other uses is deemed to have an impact on national and global food security, does the government have any jurisdictional basis for the to legislate to preserve arable land?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 17th, 2012

With respect to the Afghan Detainee Document Review (ADDR) submitted on April 15, 2011, by the Panel of Arbiters (PoA) under the June 15, 2010, Memorandum of Understanding signed by three party leaders in Parliament: (a)have the documents referred to in paragraph 30 ever been provided, unredacted, to any Canadian government law-enforcement investigators for purposes of tracing the detainees named in the documents in order to determine whether any suffered mistreatment after transfer to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), if not, why not; (b) has the government ever provided compensation to any person or family of any person transferred to Afghan authorities, or sought out a person or family with compensation as the purpose; (c) with regard to the public-domain research (regular reviews of credible media reporting, government reports and reports of international organizations) conducted by the PoA’s staff referenced in pararaph 36 of the ADDR, was this public domain research handed over to the government, if not, where is it located, and, whatever its location, will the government release any bibliographies generated by this research or any documents archived by the research that fall within the categories of “credible media reporting, government reports and reports of international organizations”; (d) with regard to the PoA’s review of documents redacted on the basis of national security confidentiality (“NSC” documents), national defence and international relations whereby the PoA reviewed between 1450 and 2300 pages of documents (paragraphs 52-54) while releasing 113 NSC documents (paragraph 56), will the government release those documents that were not yet ready for release with the ADDR because the Department of Justice had not yet had time to complete the technical process of preparing the documents for release after the PoA had finished its reviews and determinations (paragraphs 54 and 55), and how many PoA-reviewed documents remain unreleased because the technical process of preparing the documents remains incomplete; (e) with regard to the 15 documents for which the government had initially claimed solicitor-client privilege (paragraph 63 and page 1 of the ADDR annex called “Documents subject to Solicitor-Client Privilege Claims”) but later withdrew the claim, in each case, (i) what were the bases on which privilege was initially claimed, (ii) why did the government change its view; (f) with regard to the 117 documents for which the PoA upheld the government’s solicitor-client privilege claim (paragraphs 64 and 65; pages 2-7 of the ADDR annex called “Documents subject to Solicitor-Client Privilege Claims”), will the government waive the solicitor-client privilege to the limited extent of revealing the subject matter of each of the 117 documents; (g) in the ADDR annex called “Documents subject to Solicitor-Client Privilege Claims”, why are the large majority of documents described with the acronym PoA (presumably, Panel of Arbiters) while some are specifically indicated as being DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) documents?

Petitions September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am simply tabling exactly the same petition as was just presented by the hon. member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe.

Criminal Code June 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support Bill C-394 going to committee.

I think we have an opportunity here for some serious cross-party co-operation with respect to this private member's bill. That said, I have some of the same concerns I always do with private members' bills being the vehicle for criminal law reform. They have serious limitations, limitations I will address a little bit in my remarks, and that is why I was very pleased to see that one of the parliamentary secretaries to the Minister of Justice is involved in the file. I hope that as much as possible, a broader, more holistic justice department input to this private member's bill can be forthcoming.

We are all aware that street gangs are becoming more and more of a problem in this country. My own city, Toronto, is ranked among the cities having the largest growing problem. We all know recent events at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, which is actually linked to ongoing gang violence within an area very close to my own riding, although not exactly in my riding, of Regent's Park where, at the end of March on one evening alone, five different incidents occurred producing 90 bullets flying around a housing community in that one evening. The escalating gang violence in that area of Toronto was what, it appears, led to the shooting at the crowded Eaton Centre food court.

Clearly something is wrong, if not terribly wrong, and we must act now, so I welcome the member's private member's bill. It is completely consistent with what the NDP has been calling for since the 2011 election, when it was part of our campaign platform to create an offence for gang recruitment.

That said, we recognize that it cannot be viewed in isolation as an ad hoc measure, which brings me back to the concerns I have with private members' bills and their limitations.

It is important that we rely, as we move forward to committee, on serious, expert studies about what works and what does not and how this one provision will and will not fit with a broader, more holistic strategy.

There is a 2010 report from a leading academic, Scott Wortley, of the University of Toronto, called “Youth, Gangs and Violence: Characteristic Causes and Prevention Strategy”. In this report he notes a few things that are very important for us to keep in mind, because I would like to focus mostly on the issue of youth. He says, “Gang violence is more likely to occur in public spaces, involve weapons, especially firearms, and involve multiple victims...and is more likely to result in the victimization of innocent bystanders”.

He goes on to speak more generally about the involvement of youth gang members in much higher levels of crime and violence than non-gang youth as something that studies in Canada and in other countries have consistently shown.

He finally notes that youth gang members are much more likely to themselves become victims of serious violence, including homicide, than youth who are not involved in gangs, and I think this is really important for us to remember. In this respect it helps us consider the fact that members of gangs themselves can be viewed as, and are, victims.

One of the issues that will be coming up in committee, I hope, is youth recruiting youth. It is not simply a matter of youth being recruited, but as youth as recruiters. It is not entirely clear what a criminalization provision will do to that very important complex social fact. We have to keep in mind that members of youth gangs are, not surprisingly, youth. They are used for the recruitment of their peers, and simply criminalizing that behaviour would not get us very far, I submit.

We have to counter the flaring up of violence and what looks to be the increase in gang activity not only by clamping down on violence in a pure Criminal Code mode but also by looking for more long-term solutions. As Professor Wortley said in his report, “Enforcement alone is not going to stop this problem”.

We have to focus on prevention. Members opposite sometimes feel that the NDP overdoes its focus on prevention. They think that somehow this means the NDP is soft on crime. Far from it; it simply means we understand the most effective ways to root out crime before it starts and to prevent it from occurring again.

There is a whole continuum of measures that need to be put in place by a society to give opportunities to those who might otherwise turn to crime or, in this instance, those who might be susceptible to being recruited. If they fall off the wagon, so to speak, they end up being put in jail. We have to make sure that downstream measures within our jail system do not recreate the tendencies to engage in criminal behaviour. This more holistic, long-term and continuum-like approach of the NDP is perfectly consistent with a hard-on-crime approach; it is just a smart-on-crime approach as well.

Gangs have always targeted young people, but they seem to be doing so increasingly. As the member for Brampton—Springdale, who introduced the bill, stated in his own introduction, criminal organizations do appear to be targeting youth as young as eight years old and quite commonly in the age of 12 and 13 to participate in criminal activities and to become actual members of organizations. Members are even hanging around boys and girls clubs just, for example, hoping to recruit innocent children.

As we have already heard from the member for Ottawa South and the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the most vulnerable to be recruited tend to be young people who are marginalized, those who are from lower socio-economic groups, those who are from tougher family situations and some who in a more long-term sense are looking ahead to their future prospects in society and are in some despair about where the opportunities do and do not lie for them. These background social facts are as important as the immediate goal of preventing recruitment or preventing organized crime youth gang activity itself.

The NDP's priority is to approach this using a balanced approach. We want to make sure that people live in safe, non-violent communities by putting the emphasis on more programs to prevent young people from being recruited into gangs. I am speaking of programs like the Remix Project created some five years ago in Toronto to serve the needs of young people who are vulnerable to being recruited to gangs.

I have had the opportunity with colleagues to have an early meeting with boys and girls club representatives, knowing the bill would be coming forward. I urge other members to listen to their perspectives and the perspectives of other organizations that work closely with youth.

Among the concerns we heard in what was at this stage still a fairly casual discussion was exactly what I have already raised. The youth being recruited by youth issue cannot be ignored. It has to be directed head on. Youth themselves can be recruiters, and this will criminalize their behaviour as well as anybody else who is recruiting.

The second part of the strategy is that we need to have programs and measures that take a positive approach and create bright options for youth looking into the future. These two messages I took away from our early conversations as being absolutely key.

The NDP has called for an offence of gang recruitment, but we have also put it in the context of a long-standing defence of such measures such as putting more police into communities and creating dedicated youth gang prevention funds and activities.

Let me now go to three concerns about the bill that have to be taken into account. We cannot simply say that we are in favour of it in principle and would like to see it in committee and that therefore everything is fine. It is not entirely fine.

The first point is that the nature of the private member's bill means that at least from the beginning, the justice department is not involved. We do not have anything resembling a whole-of-government approach to the bill. It is one of the classic areas that I hope I have already outlined in my remarks that needs a more holistic, continuum-like approach to the issue.

That does not mean that something like this cannot go forward on its own, but it will be a real shame if we lose the opportunity to build this initiative into a much broader understanding of what else is out there and, most importantly, what needs to be put in place for this not to be simply a punitive approach to the problem. It is an approach that is necessary as part of the solution, but on its own, it will only make us feel good but get nothing done.

It is important to note, and I do not mean to make this sound too partisan, but the Conservatives have not been generally favourable to the preventive side. In January 2011, a scarce year ago, the Conservatives announced severe cuts to the youth gang prevention fund, and it was only a push-back from the NDP that had that reinstated.

The Conservatives need to approach this more holistically. We have to focus on the mandatory minimum concern that was already brought up.

Finally, we really have to look at the issue of youth recruiting other youth, and make sure the committee process hears from witnesses who know about that and have real ideas on how to deal with it.

Petitions June 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, my third petition is on behalf of residents of Toronto—Danforth and relates to Bill C-38, which I would remind everyone has not yet passed this House.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to allow for greater study, debate and public scrutiny on the budget implementation bill.

Petitions June 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, the second petition concerns mounting evidence of election fraud in the 2011 federal election. The petitioners call on the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister to set up an independent, fully empowered royal commission into election fraud.

Petitions June 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I have three petitions, mostly from members of my riding of Toronto—Danforth.

The first petition calls on the Government of Canada to create a Canadian energy strategy which focuses on transitioning to a new energy economy based on conservation and renewable energy, with many good ideas actually presented in the petition itself.