House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was north.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Northwest Territories (Northwest Territories)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Environment June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, for over a year, Conservatives have claimed they have a plan to tackle climate change. Canadians and the NDP have been asking, where is the plan? For five months, nothing.

Yesterday the NDP launched the first part of its five point plan to a cleaner environment called the “Green Agenda for Canada”. These are costed proposals that would reduce emissions and save working families money on their energy bills.

When will the government table its plan to help Canadians make their homes more efficient?

Territorial Formula Financing June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, on Monday the Minister of Finance took delivery of a report on territorial formula financing produced by the expert panel mandated to review these programs. On Monday the minister said he was going to review the report.

The people of Canada's north need immediate changes to how their governments are financed.

Importantly, the report calls for a reduction in the amount Ottawa claws back from the territories' own source revenues each year. It also calls for resource revenues to be excluded from the calculation of own source revenues. I agree with these.

However, I cannot agree with the report's recommendation for the continuation of using population as the basis for determining territorial funding. In the submission from the three territories, they called this approach inadequate and inappropriate.

I hope the minister will heed the views of the three territories when he reviews this report. The territories are only asking for a fair shake from Ottawa that will allow them to achieve their great promise and potential in the development of this country.

Criminal Code June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to understand the member's rationale in supporting Bill C-9 but now not supporting Bill C-10 when both of them deal with issues surrounding incarceration terms. Perhaps he could elaborate on how these bills are different and should be considered philosophically different.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am supportive of the need to do something to counteract the negative impact that increasing gas prices are having on Canadians. Increasing fuel prices are a drag on our economy which, if allowed to continue, will show itself through increased prices in all sectors and possibly increased unemployment.

While all Canadians suffer from increasing energy prices, some feel the effects more than others. In the north, where energy costs are so high already, these things impact us more than others.

The other concern Canadians in northern and rural municipalities across the country have is with heating oil. As the price of oil goes up the price of heating oil goes up and that has a detrimental impact on Canadians.

However, these price increases are a symptom of a much larger disease. The disease is the fact that inexpensive, easy to access fossil fuels are beginning to run out at a time when demand continues to increase. While the Bloc's motion is a start, we must address the twin facts that new sources of energy need to be developed now and the demand for fossil fuels needs to be reduced.

What is needed is a national energy strategy that is based on the twin pillars of conservation and the development of new energy sources. I realize that some members of the House are frightened at the thought of this strategy as it brings back visions of the Liberals' failed national energy program. Even the CEOs of the large pipeline companies in Canada are calling for a national energy strategy.

Now is not the time to be timid. We must not let the failures of the past prevent us from effectively dealing with the fact that action is needed now.

What we have had is timid action. For example, a New Democratic initiative to require fuel efficiency in vehicles was defeated when both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted for voluntary standards which have failed to address energy costs, climate change and smog.

We have seen no action from the Conservative government because it has not realized that this issue is a priority with Canadians.

Before my time runs out I would like to put forward an amendment to the motion which would perhaps bring it in line so it can move forward. The amendment reads, that the motion be amended by adding the word “extraordinary” immediately before the word “profit” so that the section of the motion would read “a surtax on the extraordinary profits of”.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we have not seen that side of the government's response to criminal justice. We have not seen the warm side of dealing with people in their environment to reduce crime and prevent crime from happening. We need youth centres all across the country. We need opportunities for young people to integrate into their communities and their societies comfortably.

To me, alienation from their community is one of the greatest causes of criminal activity for young people and once they are into criminal activity, it can lead them into more serious offences in the future. We need to work more with our young people. That requires money.

We have a real need for youth centres across the north. I have requests on my desk right now to work with people from Inuvik right through to Yellowknife along with smaller communities to get money into youth centres so that we can prevent some of this expensive criminal--

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is a difficult one. We want to ensure that the justice system is very fair. We want to ensure that cultural adaptation in the system is fair to the victims and to all those who have a part in the commission of offences and the subsequent delineation of their punishment.

I look for more weight being given to the judges because they are there to judge. They are there to interpret the law for the people in the communities. They interpret the law so that the people understand what the law is and that the return they get from the system is fair and adequate for every Canadian.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill. I have a great deal of concern with the Conservatives' plan for getting rid of conditional sentencing for so many criminal offences, many of them not violent in nature. Many of them are of a kind that could be open to interpretation in the court as to their severity of impact on the general public.

Bill C-9 is what I call retail politics. The bill is a knee-jerk reaction. It will do nothing to rehabilitate criminals and it will not reduce crime. As far as we can see, it is based on not that much information. Not much information has been provided to the House to examine. In fact, due to the relatively recent introduction of conditional sentencing, there are few academic studies that have been completed on its impact on the criminal justice system. Furthermore, there is a dearth of sentencing statistics in Canada. Even Statistic Canada's adult criminal court survey lacks certain data. Therefore, we are not able to assess very correctly the nature of the impact of conditional sentencing on criminal justice.

In 2003 of the 104,000 sentences of custody imposed across Canada, 13,000 were conditional sentences of imprisonment. Of the people who were incarcerated or under supervision in 2003-04, four out of five were being supervised in communities. Many of them were on probation; 11% were on conditional sentences.

It has not been demonstrated to me nor to my caucus that this bill is going to work effectively to reduce crime or to improve the rehabilitation of criminals.

I come from the north. I have lived and worked in small northern aboriginal communities all my life. I worked in the municipal field as a mayor. For many years I had regular correspondence with the police on the types of offences that were present in our communities. As a member of a small aboriginal community, I was able to see the impact of sentencing on individuals over a long period of time and the types of results that came from incarceration versus sentencing that allowed the criminal to stay in the community.

Canada's aboriginal population will be particularly hard hit by this amendment. We see the statistic in Saskatchewan where 60% of the conditional sentences that were handed down in one year were handed down to aboriginal people. Jails in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are already at peak capacity or overflowing and there is a very large percentage of aboriginal population in those jails.

Last year in Nunavut 200 offenders received conditional sentences and 275 were incarcerated. This is in a population base of about 28,000. One can see the impact that conditional sentencing will have on that small government and its ability to provide justice services to its people.

This month there were 73 prisoners packed into the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit, a jail designed to hold 40. At the start of this month, Yellowknife's North Slave Correctional Facility for adults, a new jail opened only two years ago, was full. Overflowing jails create environments which are dangerous to guards and inmates.

Also, because these jails are full, northern inmates, many of whom are aboriginal, are being forced into jails in the south, where they do not have access to appropriate cultural rehabilitation programs. They are separated from their families which increases the likelihood that they will not be rehabilitated and will reoffend.

When we look at what is happening right now in the north, we see that in many cases judges and the correctional system want the inmates to remain in the north and not go to the southern institutions, even though they may have received sentences greater than two years. They know that the result of sending these inmates into the higher grade of correction services is they more likely will reoffend.

Is creating situations where offenders are not rehabilitated and continue to commit crimes after release what the Conservatives want? It seems to be, because simply putting more people in jail will only create environments which breed repeat offenders.

Justice is not about throwing people into jail for the purposes of revenge. It is about getting people to return to society and no longer commit crimes.

Canada's north has been at the forefront of developing alternative sentencing arrangements. Many of the communities in my riding have community justice committees that deal with many offences which would normally go before a judge. These committees know the offender and the community and craft sentences to meet the needs of both. Sometimes the committees hand out what would be considered to be light sentences for serious crimes, but the effect is that many of those sentenced through this process do not reoffend.

The committees, also known as sentencing circles, have been copied across the country as an effective means of reducing the level of aboriginal incarceration and reducing the incidence of reoffending.

Eliminating conditional sentences will have a major impact on aboriginal communities across Canada and the north in particular. Already aboriginal people make up a disproportionate percentage of prisoners in our jails. The bill will do nothing but add to that sorry figure.

For aboriginal people, conditional sentences sometimes work better than jail sentences. Recently a Nunavut crown prosecutor said that the reality is that for some people it is more difficult to serve a sentence in their own community than it is to be flown to a jail in Iqaluit, as the community gets to see the punishment.

In many small northern communities there are celebrations when people return from jail, but when they stay in the community, they are seen every day and are forced to deal with their actions with their peers.

In the north, conditional sentences also allow offenders to attend culturally appropriate treatment for problems such as addictions, anger management, mental problems, et cetera. Many of the people in our correctional institutions for very many crimes, and very many violent crimes, likely suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In some situations people are being incarcerated where in a more tolerant society we would recognize the actual mental condition that leads to the result that we see.

Every person involved in the justice system will agree that each case before the courts is different and must be tried and sentenced on its own merit. The bill flies in the face of this well-known fact. In order to deal with this fact, judges must be allowed the tools necessary to craft sentences that are most likely to result in rehabilitation.

From their words, it is clear that the Conservatives do not trust the judges in this country. Unlike the United States where anybody who gets enough votes can be a judge, this country chooses its judges from the most respected and knowledgeable members of the legal profession. These people do not operate in a vacuum. They see the reality of the criminal justice system. We should allow those who know best to craft sentences that work best.

We should not deny people the tools that are required to do the job effectively. Why would we deny judges the tools that could make their work correct? Why would we want to do that? Is it just a sense of punishing individuals? Is it a sense of revenge, that the only way we can deal with justice is an eye for an eye?

Sometimes judges get it wrong, but there are mechanisms in place to deal with these mistakes. Crowns can appeal sentences when they feel the sentences are too light. Or if a person commits another crime while serving a conditional sentence, the punishment for that crime will be even more severe.

The Environment May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government is so confused. On the one hand it says that it is wrong to buy carbon credits overseas and, on the other hand, it says that it is okay to spend money overseas for one of the highest polluting forms of energies.

Could the minister tell us how importing liquefied natural gas from Russia will do anything to clean the air that Canadians are breathing or does the government just expect Canadians to buy the government's hot--

The Environment May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government is doing nothing to tackle climate change in Canada and now we learn that the Minister of Finance has called for imports of one of the highest polluting forms of energy, liquefied natural gas, from Russia no less.

Could the minister explain how importing gas from Russia is part of the made in Canada solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Natural Resources May 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that makes no sense. Homeowners who get energy audits done is not administration. It is a feature of the program. Energy audits lead to renovations being done which stimulate the economy and which allows the federal government to recoup its investment. It is progressive because it helps low income families. The program should not be killed; it should be expanded.

We are getting the run around from the minister. Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House why the government is cooking the books on the EnerGuide?