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  • His favourite word is regard.

Conservative MP for Flamborough—Glanbrook (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this is a demonstration of the lack of respect for our privilege, Mr. Speaker. I would ask that you undertake an investigation to find out exactly how many messages from members of Parliament on the government side actually left this House and communicated items of the budget prior to the budget being delivered by the Minister of Finance.

Privilege March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point as the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

I understand that you wanted to take responsibility for the distribution, Mr. Speaker, but after the distribution, we all have the electronic capability of communicating messages outside. Many of the members who had those documents in their possession, instead of handing them back after you stood and motioned that it was inappropriate, started texting. I would ask that you—

Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination March 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the citizens of Flamborough--Glanbrook, and every member of a faith community in Canada, needs to know that their right to religious freedom is at the forefront of our concerns here in the House. Canadians of all faiths should know this: every member of the official opposition is dedicated to protecting their right to worship who and how they choose without fear of persecution.

The motion we are debating this evening, Motion No. 103, touches on this sacred right and has generated significant public discussion and concern, and rightly so. I have heard arguments in favour of and against the motion from within the Muslim community and from the broader public.

In my comments I will try to cut through the political spin of the Prime Minister's Office and the amped-up rhetoric on all sides of this debate.

For context, the motion asks members of the House to agree to three main points: first, to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; second, to condemn Islamophobia; and third, to commission a parliamentary study that would recommend ways to reduce systemic racism and religious discrimination, with particular attention paid to Islamophobia. I wholeheartedly agree with the first point but have serious concerns about the second and third points.

In light of the recent attack on the Quebec City mosque, this debate is timely and of the utmost importance. It is imperative that we get it right. For this reason, I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to the words the Prime Minister spoke in the House not more than two weeks ago to the Daughters of the Vote delegates. He passionately said:

Do we have a problem with lslamophobia in this country? Yes we do. Do we have a problem with anti-Semitism in this country? Yes we do. Do we have a problem in this country with discrimination and hatred? Yes we do and we need to talk about this and we need to challenge each other to be better on this.

I fully agree with these words, and, this will be a rare occasion, I promise I am going to follow the Prime Minister's advice. I challenge him and his Liberal team across the aisle to, as he said, be better on this.

Motion No. 103 could have been better in the following ways. It could have been amended to be inclusive of all faith communities rather than singling out one group over the others. Additionally, the motion could have clarified the definition of lslamophobia so it could not be used to shut down legitimate debate. Finally, Motion No. 103 could have affirmed the right to freedom of speech so Canadians can respectfully criticize any religious practice they believe to be wrong, including the one I adhere to and cherish myself.

Instead of pursuing these changes in an effort to have a meaningful, inclusive, and non-partisan study on the matters of racism and religious discrimination, a debate that should unify us, the Liberals have decided that there are more political points to win by ramming this motion through, regardless of the legitimate concerns I have articulated.

When it became clear that the PMO would not permit these reasonable amendments, the Conservative opposition used one of its valuable opposition days to bring forward its own motion to formally offer the government an opportunity to climb down from its political position.

During the full day of debate, the government dug in its heels and doubled down on its position, once again choosing politics over good policy. As they defeated the sensible Conservative motion, several Liberal members argued that we were trying to water down the language in Motion No. 103 by replacing the word “lslamophobia”. This argument is nothing more than shameful political spin and outright balderdash.

Not one member on the Liberal bench argued that Motion No. 103 is watered down because it does not include anti-Semitism. Do the Liberals really expect anyone to believe that a study would have been watered down because the study would have included anti-Semitism? Would it be watered down because the study included Christophobia?

Is the infringement of the rights of one faith group greater in some way than another's? Are not the rights of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus equally important? Why do the Liberals view the inclusion of all religious groups in the parliamentary study as diluting the discussion on religious freedom?

Up until this debate, the Prime Minister had been talking a good game on Canada's diversity. Countless times he has stood in his place proclaiming that our nation "is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them". That is why Canadians should rightly be outraged by his decision to pit neighbour against neighbour in this debate, choosing division over bringing people together.

Mere platitudes are not enough on the important issues facing our country, especially, when it comes to religious freedom and racial discrimination.

My concerns with the motion are not limited to the disgraceful actions of the Prime Minister's Office, but also with the use of the word “Islamophobia”, and I am not alone. Many within the Muslim community have expressed their concerns as well.

Raheel Raza, a Canadian Muslim journalist, explained her opposition to the term in an op ed. She said:

The term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics. It is also in sync with a constant push by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to turn any criticism of Islam or Muslims into blasphemy.

Further to the questionable origins of the term, Raheel Raza also articulated how the term was counterproductive for those who would like to offer criticism of the religion as part of public discourse. She said:

I believe that...M-103 will only increase the frustration of ordinary Canadian who...(... have the right) to ask uncomfortable but necessary questions. Being concerned about creeping sharia is not phobic; questioning honour-based violence and FGM in Muslim-majority societies is not phobic.

Another writer, Farzana Hassan, in her article entitled “I am a liberal Muslim and I reject M-103”, reiterated this point when she wrote:

[The] Prime Minister...has talked about finding the right balance between protecting a religious minority and also protecting our Charter rights. The answer to his dilemma is simple: Do not put the slightest dent in our right to free speech.

Consider that the Canadian Muslim community is debating the use, definition, and application of this term and consider further that it has been used in various forums to quell legitimate and respectful criticism of Islam, it is therefore incumbent upon us as members of Parliament to say what we mean with respect to Islamophobia, rather than leave this motion open to interpretation.

For generations, members of Parliament have stood in the House to put Canadian sentiments, priorities, aspirations, and concerns into words for the purpose of meaningful debate. This is a responsibility and a tradition we ought to be careful to uphold.

To that end, I personally met with the sponsor of the motion to replace the divisive language and offered to champion the motion within the Conservative caucus if she would agree. I suggested that we could have replaced the word “Islamophobia” with the phrase “hatred toward Muslims”. Alternatively, we could have worked together to draft an amendment that would have included all-faith communities.

Instead, the long arm of the Prime Minister's Office inappropriately reached into private members' business to politicize the debate and denied my request.

In a debate that features questions surrounding free speech, religious freedom, and racial discrimination, it is unacceptable that the government would not work with us to find common ground. Canada has long been a nation where a member of one faith can live peacefully beside members of other faiths. That is the way it should stay. That is the way it shall remain.

Unless the government engages in an inclusive, comprehensive, and unifying discussion on religious freedom, racial discrimination, and free speech, I am compelled to vote against this divisive motion.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My hon. colleague is just three seats away from me and it is absolutely impossible for me to hear him with all the din over here. I would ask members to respect their colleague and to please quiet down and come to order.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank my colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, for bringing forward this bill to build a national framework on an issue that is critically important to Canadians, and in turn our national safety and national fabric. These are our first responders. They are military personnel, veterans, correctional officers, and police. These are the people who protect and defend us day in and day out and care for us in our most urgent times of need. It is our duty to care for them as they grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While more is understood about PTSD, or as Veterans Affairs calls it, operational stress injuries, every day, there is much more work to be done. We owe it to our first responders to do everything in our legislative power to make this happen. That is why I am honoured to stand today in support of Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on PTSD, the private member's bill brought forward by my hon. colleague.

One of the greatest privileges of being a member of Parliament is the opportunity that it affords us to interact with our veterans and military personnel. I have had the opportunity to spend time on Canadian navy vessels, HMCS Halifax and HMCS Montreal, to talk with veterans from coast to coast, and to spend time with the reservists and officers of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. I am proud to be a member of the officers' mess at John Weir Foote V.C. Armouries in my hometown of Hamilton.

Unfortunately, these brave women and men who gather at these armouries know PTSD and operational stress injuries all too well. That is because, tragically and regrettably, Corporal Justin Stark, a 22-year-old reservist with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, took his own life in those armouries. It was October 2010, and he had returned to Canada just 10 months earlier from a deployment in Afghanistan.

Please also allow me to mention what many hon. members will know and recall, because I would be remiss in mentioning The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders without acknowledging a major tragedy that faced us. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed in the attack on the National War Memorial in October of 2014, was also an Argyll. As we talk about the scourge of PTSD that plagues his former colleagues, we should always remember the courage and valour of all military personnel.

We were mindful of the tragic circumstances that led Corporal Justin Stark to such a dark place when we announced an operational stress injury clinic for downtown Hamilton in January 2015. I was pleased to join my colleague, the hon. member for Durham, then minister of Veterans Affairs, for that announcement. The clinic would serve the Hamilton and Niagara areas, as well as parts of southwestern Ontario. All of these areas were previously served by a clinic in Toronto, and this brought the resources, counselling, and therapy closer to home for many veterans and personnel. One has to imagine that when dealing with such complex issues as mental health, operational stress injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder, having these resources closer to home makes a huge difference in speedy diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and care.

This is a good and practical example of the kinds of things that Bill C-211 would help to facilitate. It would help to coordinate all of these resources at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels, and clinics such as this one that were funded by the federal government and operated by the province. Bill C-211 would set in motion a long-overdue and much-needed coordinated federal-provincial strategy, so that an inventory of such resources can be taken, gaps can be identified, and people in desperate need of help can be properly served.

Unfortunately, Corporal Stark is not an isolated example. When I chaired the veterans affairs committee, we heard expert testimony on post-traumatic stress disorder in our Canadian Armed Forces. What a tragedy that these brave women and men, who enlist to defend the freedoms we cherish and value so much as Canadians, are themselves imprisoned and thereby robbed of their own freedoms on their return from duty because of the psychological terror and devastating effects of PTSD. May this sadness move us to action.

While I have focused my examples thus far on military personnel and veterans, I know of many police officers, ambulance attendants, and firefighters in my community, the greater Hamilton area, who have been equally impacted by PTSD.

It is well known that among paramedics, the incidence of PTSD is very high. Almost a quarter will be impacted. Think about that. Almost a quarter of paramedics grapple with PTSD. These are the same people we count on in our hour of need. It is time we gave them the same priority they give us. It is time to take action as proposed by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

The only group of first responders for whom the rate of PTSD is worse than it is for paramedics is correctional officers, who have an incidence rate of 24% to 26%. When we talk about that, it is easy to understand the pressures they are under. When I researched my own private member's bill in the last Parliament, I encountered many correctional officers, and I have heard gut-wrenching accounts. Beneath the statistics, these are real stories, real people, real families, and real cries for help.

We know that what is stipulated in Bill C-211 is just a first step. It would require the Minister of Health to convene a conference with stakeholders from all relevant federal departments, provincial and territorial representatives, the medical community, and patient groups. It is a sound and logical step. Developing a framework is a necessary and needed result. It would be a step forward in addressing the challenges, recognizing the symptoms, and providing timely diagnosis, thereby speeding access to treatment for PTSD.

It is a complex problem. It is not going to be solved overnight. A federal framework would only go so far, but it would bring together initiatives and legislation at the provincial level in a coordinated and national strategy. Is it not time?

To me, this is a simple decision. There is only one right answer. For the sake of the mental health of people who care for and protect and defend us every single day, I urge all members of this chamber to wholeheartedly support and vote in favour of Bill C-211.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to one of the most important bills I have had to deal with since I was elected. God bless all our first responders, and God bless Canada.

Taxation February 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, on the week that my constituents celebrated Family Day, I rise to voice serious concern that the increasing tax burden the Liberal government is placing on our families has reached a breaking point.

In Flamborough—Glanbrook, young families are the largest and fastest growing demographic. Young couples and parents are working hard in pursuit of their dream to own a home, to make a better life for themselves. We should be rewarding their hard work and not punishing it with new taxes.

When the Prime Minister travels to European galas to lecture others on middle-class angst, he needs to first look at his own actions, because actions speak louder than words: actions like the carbon tax and CPP hike, actions like the cancellation of tax credits families relied on for sports and arts programs for their children, actions taken by the government.

Here is my challenge to the members opposite who talk a big game on reconnecting with the middle class. Long before next Family Day, they should actually go to a local Tim Hortons or a breakfast diner and hear the increasing frustrations of young families before contemplating more taxes to fund the free-spending way of the Liberal government.

Justice February 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we will try another question for the justice minister.

Women and children are disproportionately the victims of human trafficking and are most commonly exploited for sex, yet the Liberals introduced Bill C-38, which would remove the requirement for human trafficking sentences to be served consecutively.

If the Prime Minister wants to have any credibility as a feminist, then he should start protecting the rights of human trafficking victims over the rights of perpetrators. Why is he giving human traffickers a break and turning his back on their victims?

Business of Supply February 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I take it that my colleague was not inferring or putting words in my mouth or in the mouths of any of my colleagues, in regard to the words I said.

I had just quoted a Canadian Muslim journalist who mentioned that she had concerns regarding the word “Islamophobia”. I was not talking about any Conservative, any member from the Liberal benches or any member from the NDP. I was talking about somebody from that community. That is the concern about the lack of specificity.

I should also let the House know that I did have a direct meeting with the member who sponsored Motion No. 103. I told her I would be glad to be a champion of that motion within my caucus if she changed the term “Islamophobia”, with which even some of the Muslim community has a problem with, to “hatred toward Muslims”. That is very clear.

We stand against it. We will always stand against it and make sure we protect our Muslim community. That would have been the best course. That would have been best way to unify this chamber, and unfortunately she would not accept that amendment.

Business of Supply February 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of items that I would like to put on the record.

One is from a well-known journalist, Raheel Raza, who is a member of the Canadian Muslim community and published an op-ed just recently. Her words are, “If M-103 is passed, it will silence positive criticism and widen the gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians. This is unacceptable”. This is a voice from the Muslim community.

Why we would call anti-Semitism anti-Semitism is because that term has been around since 1879, it has endured academic rigour, it has endured history; it is recognized by the United Nations; it was strengthened by the EUMC in 2005 and by a voluntary group of parliamentarians here in Parliament, called the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, in a report in 2010.

When the term Islamophobia stands up to that level of rigour, then I am convinced that the Canadian public will accept that word as meaning hatred toward Muslims. We condemn all hatred toward Muslims and any other group and I am convinced that they will be comfortable with it. However, until then, this is the concern that Conservatives have.

Business of Supply February 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak regarding a principle which I value greatly and which I think most people in the world value greatly and that is religious freedom. The only dark part of today is that one of our members has been the receiver of so much hate over social media and that I sincerely regret. I work with that particular member on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights and nobody should have to endure that.

Arguably, religious freedom is one of the most important freedoms for from it cascades the freedoms of assembly, of conscience, of worship, of speech.

The member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands deserves our sincerest thanks for his tireless work with respect to human rights and religious freedom and for moving the motion that we are debating today.

The member's motion asks the House of Commons to agree on three points: first, that we recognize Canadian society as not immune to a climate of hate and fear that leads to violence; second, that we condemn all forms of systematic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination; and third, that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government can reduce or eliminate all types of discrimination in Canada and table its recommendations in the House. The motion is succinct, inclusive, comprehensive, and timely in the light of recent events.

On January 29, Canadians were shocked to learn of the hateful shooting in a Quebec City mosque that targeted Muslims who had gathered there to pray. Killing someone when the individual is in the submissive position of prayer adds to the heinousness of this act of terror. The lives of six men were taken that day, leaving their families without husbands and fathers and without brothers and uncles. A total of 15 children were left fatherless. Many of the other victims are still suffering today and struggling with their wounds.

From what has been reported, all of this pain and suffering comes because of the hatred within one man for one particular community of faith, in this case Muslims, which was allowed to fester and grow to the point of violence. This murderous act was an affront to the values we hold dear as Canadians. Hatred and violence against anyone, be they Muslim, Christian, Jew, Baha'i, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, or any other is reprehensible and unacceptable.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker perfectly articulated the freedoms we cherish and provided those freedoms with legal protection in his signature piece of legislation called the Canadian Bill of Rights. The words enshrined within the Bill of Rights have stood the test of time. For the purposes of today's debate, it is appropriate to read some of Diefenbaker's text into the record:

In Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

(b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

(c) freedom of religion;

(d) freedom of speech;

(e) freedom of assembly and association; and

(f) freedom of the press.

While these freedoms have been enduring, we must continue to be vigilant to protect them.

I have served on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights for more than a decade. During those years I have heard troubling testimony of grave human rights abuses, be they acts of genocide, terror, sexual slavery, rape as a weapon of war or torture, just to name some. More often than not, these actions are perpetrated deliberately and systematically against minority, ethnic, or religious groups.

While we have been blessed in Canada where hateful violence often does not take these extreme forms, we need to recognize that we are not immune to this type of hate, as evidenced by the travesty in Quebec City.

I do not need to look any further than my city of Hamilton for further examples of acts that threaten our religious freedom. It is unacceptable that Jewish students at McMaster University would feel threatened on campus. It is reprehensible that swastikas were painted on garage doors in Dundas. The Jewish community should not have to feel the need to have police cruisers provide security at synagogues during high holidays in Hamilton.

In the riding I represent, Flamborough—Glanbrook, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, a Hindu temple was mistaken for a mosque and was firebombed. Fortunately, this attack at the Hindu Samaj Temple led to the creation of several dialogue groups and organizations to increase peace and understanding among our diverse religious and ethnic communities. Yet, recently a mosque in downtown Hamilton had a fire purposely set at its door which fortunately did not consume the building. Still, this crime shows us that more work needs to be done.

In fact, people from across the country, from a variety of faith backgrounds, have reported discrimination of some kind within the last year. This is a disturbing trend that must be stopped.

I have had the opportunity on several occasions now to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. People who go there enter the building that shows the timeline of anti-Semitism, how it grew, how it became socially acceptable, how that paved the way to allow the Nazis to take over Germany, and come up with what they called the final solution. Visiting this museum serves as a reminder to me that hate must be rooted out before it can be allowed to grow. It should serve as a reminder to us, as legislators, that we must enact policies and even the fashion of our dialogue in the chamber should be such that it breeds tolerance, acceptance, and respect for rights of all people.

The previous Conservative government created the office of religious freedom. The office existed so that Canada could have a dedicated voice on issues of religious freedom, a voice that stood out in an increasingly intolerant world. Sadly, one of the first changes of the Liberal government made on the foreign affairs file was to eliminate the office of religious freedom, thus diminishing the voice of principle we once offered.

I attended with the Right Hon. Stephen Harper when he made the announcement about the opening of the office of religious freedom in a mosque in Toronto. He did so with the support of many faith groups across the country. In contrast, the Liberals closed the office coldly in the form of a budget cut in last year's budget. Perhaps, when considering a whole-of-government approach on these issues, this political and ideological decision could be reviewed.

With the overwhelming number of Canadians ascribing to some religion, it is important that the government, although desirous of maintaining a secular nature of governance, understands that those it governs are religious and desire an understanding of religious life from their representatives. I had the honour to serve as the chair of the All Party Interfaith Friendship Group for five years. This group, made up of Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Baha'is, Zoroastrians, and others, were always ready to provide parliamentarians with education regarding their respective communities.

As I reflect on their advice to us as members, the following themes emerge. First, all Canadians expect to live in communities free of hatred, persecution, prejudice, or violence in any form, against anyone, for any reason. Next, Canada prides itself on being a nation where peoples of any faith can and do live peaceably beside peoples of other faiths. Canadians desire legitimate and dignified debate with respect to peace, order, and good government that should include transparent and open discussion about the meaning of significant and important words. It is my hope that as this debate continues, these themes will provide a framework for the discussion of how the government can continue the work of eliminating racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination.

To conclude my remarks, let me once again quote Prime Minister Diefenbaker. He said:

I am a Canadian...free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.

I encourage members from all parties to support this motion and, in so doing, the House will give fresh life and meaning to these words.