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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was may.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am very curious. In the member's opinion, what is standing in the way of a comprehensive solution to this alleged and apparently real discrimination? Is it a lack of courage? Are there some obstacles contained in the reality of first nations life across the country? Is there some other legal impediment? Why could the government not have proposed and consulted on a more comprehensive solution that would have addressed Ms. McIvor's concerns and the concerns of so many others?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. His riding is definitely much more connected to our first nations than is my Toronto urban riding, but I could not help but think, during his speech and other remarks, that some people tend to view this legislation as being strategic in some way, when I view it as being more like a band-aid to fix what has been identified as a legal inequality in the legislation that governs our first nations.

I and a lot of other legislators would have been a lot happier if our first nations could have had the ability to resolve these types of issues themselves, but regrettably, this century-old, anachronistic Indian Act that is now governing much of this jurisdictional envelope is so old that we can hardly work with it, nor can our first nations, who very much want to.

Given the hon. member's experience, and there are a lot of other members in the House who have this experience with first nations in their riding, does he see any possibility of this House and first nations generating a capacity that would enable them, facilitate them and empower them in the near future, and into the future, to resolve these kinds of definitional, inclusion-exclusion issues for their local first nation or across the country? Does he see that anywhere in the pipeline as a possibility in the future?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am going to support the bill, as it looks like most members are going to support it. No one is foot-dragging or delaying it. However, I have three points.

The parliamentary secretary said that one of the rationales for removing these OAS payments was that they were prisoners who broke the law and should not receive benefits. If that were the rationale, then we would be removing benefits from anyone who broke the law at any time.

We are doing this, and I think the member has already said it, because these individuals in custody are already being supported with food and shelter and other amenities. Is that not the reality? In fact, we pay prisoners something like $5 a day. That is $100 a month. We pay prisoners an allowance per diem. Therefore, if the government were consistent with this, it would remove the $5 a day.

Will the member agree also that this does not apply to the Canada pension plan payments, which is a separate pension plan entitlement that prisoners in custody will continue to receive? Unless they defer them to age 70, they can start receiving them at age 60 if they wish.

Would the member not agree with what I have just said so we can keep a balance in the way we are explaining the rationale of this legislation?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my remarks are going to be pretty short. The member from the New Democratic Party gave an excellent speech about this particular bill.

There really is not a lot of opposition to the substance of the bill itself. What has caused concern to me and others is the fact that on the surface there does not appear to be a need for this Criminal Code amendment. The reason is that if there is a homicide, a first degree murder, there is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Life imprisonment means a life sentence. It does not necessarily mean that every day is going to be spent in prison. However, there is no sentence greater than a life sentence. If I could go back 25 or 30 years when the death penalty was here, if that was still the case now the penalty for a first degree murder would be death. There is not a more significant penalty than that. If there was a double murder or a triple murder, the person can only be executed once.

When the law was changed, we ended with a life sentence. Life means life. A sentence cannot be any longer than that. It was absurd to talk about consecutive life sentences. We only have one life to live at this point in our human history. The impacts were felt to be pretty minimal.

Second, as has been pointed out here, no one has raised any particular instance of releases of individuals who are serving life sentences for multiple murders. There has not been one. If there has not been a release of that nature, why was it found necessary to draft a bill to change the law to prevent something from happening that is not happening anyway? That is the second reason why this bill does not appear to be necessary.

Third, it is really quite egotistical of a House of Parliament to make an assumption that what it would do in this House would have a huge impact on the street in terms of preventing crime. I hope no one here is naive enough to think that by merely sitting in our comfortable seats and changing the law we are going to immediately impact life on the streets in terms of crime prevention. This is not the case.

Many of us think that way from time to time. We politically posture to pretend that by changing the law in some little way we will make Canadians safer. Only in some cases is that a fact. In most cases we are just changing the law that our police and our courts work with.

These are three reasons why will bill looks pretty unnecessary. However, there is a place for this bill. My colleague of 22 years from Mississauga spotted it many years ago. This is that one of the objectives of sentencing under the Criminal Code, one of the specifically written objectives that this House enacted 15 years ago, is societal denunciation for the crime.

In looking at the application of a life sentence, at first blush there does not appear to be much room for additional denunciation. A life sentence is a life sentence. However, it just so happens that in our laws governing parole there did appear to be a failure to take advantage of an opportunity to show denunciation, further denunciation.

Our law does permit parole eligibility, not automatically granted parole but the ability to ask for parole after 25 years have been served. As has been indicated here, the average release time for someone, and this is the average across all those convicted and given life sentences, is about 28 years. They serve 28 years before they apply for parole. Therefore, by the time we take in those who are less than 25 years and those who are over, there are a lot of long sentences being served here.

However, in dealing with the parole eligibility dates, there was an opportunity for society to show an additional element of denunciation. That would involve saying if people killed a second time, they would have to have another 25 years or another period of time of actual in-custody sentences served before they could have eligibility. That was the reason this concept of increasing the denunciation was born. I can support that. In this case, the bill would allow for judicial discretion in applying these penalties.

However, lest we think that this additional denunciation in relation to parole eligibility would have an impact on the street, I can say without any hesitation, and I hope members are realistic enough in the House to agree with this, that there is virtually no case involving a homicide or a double homicide, whether at the same time or sequenced later in time, where the individual involved in that tragic circumstance will pull out a calculator and try to figure out whether or not he or she should proceed because there is some enhanced denunciation involving parole eligibility dates.

It is our hope, naive as it might be, that if someone were to think about, he or she might take it into consideration before taking the drastic action of taking a life. In some case I hope that would happen, that the additional denunciation related to the increased parole eligibility application periods would actually provide some pause or thought on the part of the perpetrator. In most of these tragic cases, I doubt that will happen. In 99% of the cases, the individuals involved do not even think about it and do not think they will ever get caught, so the event happens. It is a tragedy time after time after time.

I will support the bill. As has been mentioned, one might as well consider my words as notice to members opposite that the short title of the bill probably will not survive the committee's consideration. It might, but it is a warning to the drafters of these bills and the short titles that the House is not likely to accept the insertion of political commercials into the short title of bills anymore. Let us get a good objective statement of the change in law proposed by the bill and we will live with that. Do not over-torque it.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member who has just given this very good speech if he does not think the Minister of Justice, who just intervened, was blowing a lot of hot air, given the fact that the subject of debate yesterday was set by the government? It was a Conservative member who moved the motion to reinstate the short title of the bill. The opposition did not set the subject matter of yesterday's debate. It was the government itself. I could not resist responding to that artificial, plastic, misleading suggestion by the Minister of Justice that somehow it was the opposition that had set up the subject of debate yesterday.

This is a process question as opposed to one on the substance of the bill. Would the member not agree that we would be further ahead if the government had simply introduced one criminal law amendment bill with a half dozen of these changes instead of doing a separate bill for every little change and putting into each bill a short title that had a politically over-torqued commercial for whatever the Conservatives' political agenda is? Then all of these subject items would probably be law and passed by now.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the last question first. The delay described involves a delay over quite a few years, over quite a few Parliaments and sessions. The reason the government of the day, whether it was Liberal or Conservative, did not actually punch through on this quickly and immediately was that there were other Criminal Code offences being used for this purpose.

We could have gotten by with the existing Criminal Code provisions, but with something as thick as the Criminal Code, we can always find ways to add a section or amend a section. This will go on forever. I have to say that these new additions to the code will assist in police enforcement of the code. Will it produce reductions in crime? Only time will tell.

The earlier question that was asked was on this concept of continuing to legislate new criminal laws. I get the sense that some of us will, from time to time, present bills amending the Criminal Code for, let us just say, political purposes, as if we have all invented a new way to deal with the problems of crime. This will also go on for many years. I have probably done it myself once or twice.

Every new idea is welcome and I am happy to participate in those debates.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few remarks about three aspects of the bill because I want to put on the record the fact that the House has considered and was aware of these things when we passed the bill.

I first want to say that my party and I are supporting the bill. It is quite true that the provisions of the bill have been in the legislative hopper for a number of years now, it being recognized that automobile theft was a significant economic crime here in Canada, but realizing, of course, that throughout the Criminal Code offence of theft and the offence of joyriding were already on the books and being used to enforce the problems of car theft.

However, some car theft rings now have turned this into a major international business, victimizing people in Canada and around the world. Therefore, it was necessary to take a broader and more comprehensive look at the issue of auto theft and this bill is the result.

One of the things I want to point out is the question of a shift of the burden of proof in relation to this offence. Most of us will understand that in the Criminal Code the burden is on the state to prove that the individual has committed a criminal offence and we do not criminalize somebody by saying, “Hey, Mr. Citizen, you prove you are not guilty”.

Clause 4 of the bill states that:

Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse...removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number....

That is saying that if people were to remove a vehicle identification number, it is a criminal offence unless they have a lawful excuse. What is a lawful excuse? I would have thought that people could simply say that they owned the automobile and that they were entitled to do with it whatever they would like to do in terms of how it is described, identified, painted or whatever.

I cannot recall another instance where in setting up a criminal offence we have shifted the burden to citizens to provide a lawful excuse before they are convicted. This might have read a lot better if it had said that it is an offence to obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number with fraudulent intent. That would have been more consistent with the way we currently operate under the Criminal Code.

I am not at all sure that shifting the burden is fair or constitutional, but I did want the House to know that the House and the committee had an opportunity to discuss this. It is not clear that we have an answer, but it has been noted and it will be for others to determine the appropriateness of that innovation where we place upon the person charged with the offence the burden of showing a lawful excuse for something that would otherwise be pretty normal.

The second thing concerns the definition of vehicle identification numbers. It states that it is:

...any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing it from other similar motor vehicles.

My first reading of that led me to think that included a licence plate. On reading it and discussing it with other colleagues, they felt differently. I am not fully convinced but I did want the House to know that a “number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing it from other similar motor vehicles”, in the views of members but not me, does not include a licence plate.

So I will leave that resolved at least by the majority here in favour of the licence plate not being included in that definition.

Third, on the issue of mandatory minimum, the commercial for this offence says there is a mandatory minimum contained in the bill; and yes, there is. However, I want to point out that it is not in every third offence that a mandatory minimum will apply. That is because it is only where the third or subsequent offence is proceeded with by indictment that it involves a mandatory minimum sentence.

So there could be a third, fourth or fifth circumstance where, in the discretion of the crown attorney, the prosecutor, the Crown will not proceed by indictment, it will proceed by way of summary conviction, and therefore, by the wording of these new provisions, a mandatory minimum will not apply.

The last thing I want to point out is that there have been some references in the bill to the new automobile trafficking, export-import provisions of this bill. These trafficking provisions are actually quite important because they fill a void in the ability of the state to intercept, monitor, surveil and deal with the issue of exporting stolen cars, or even importing stolen cars. It is a lot tougher to import them.

We have referred to our enforcement mechanism as being the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA. I have to say that it is pretty easy to pass a new statute and say that we have an enforcement agency. In fact, the CBSA is not set up or resourced to be a border police agency. Maybe they should; maybe they should not.

It is a border service agency and its three functions are to do immigration processing and verification, food inspection, and tax collection, including dealing with smuggling. That is what CBSA was set up to deal with.

Yet we are passing a bill that seems to be suggesting that the CBSA will now have what would otherwise be police enforcement objectives and goals to accomplish. At the justice committee, we did not look at resourcing or the mandate of CBSA. This is part of a bigger issue involving CBSA. That agency is going to need some scrutiny and some help from the policy-makers to make sure it is properly resourced for all of the functions we expect it to do.

In this case I have a feeling that we are passing a law and saying to CBSA, “Over to you”, when CBSA does not do police work. They do CBSA work in the three categories I mentioned. I should add that they also process goods leaving Canada where there are restrictions placed on the processing, which is why these trafficking provisions in the bill will enable CBSA to play a role in interdicting the export of stolen Canadian automobiles.

The last thing I want to say is that this bill passes another amendment to the Criminal Code. There must be half dozen to a dozen of them in the pipeline. Most of us around this House should by now recognize that the biggest bang for our buck, the most effective tool in dealing with crime, is investigation and enforcement.

We cannot just get rid of a crime problem by passing a law. Even if we pass the law, while it manifests denunciation of these anti-social acts, we only get the guy after the offence has been committed, and then there is the arrest, the investigation, the prosecution, the sentencing, et cetera.

We as a society have to get out in front of these things, and that is why investigation and enforcement is so important. It is the key element of all the many elements involved in crime prevention and reduction of crime.

Points of Order November 5th, 2010

On another point of order, Mr. Speaker, during question period, if my ears were not tricking me, the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, the parliamentary secretary answering for the government, appeared to use the name of a member of the House in the answer. Sometimes this will happen inadvertently, but in this case on behalf of the government he was reading a scripted answer and the name was mentioned.

I think at the very least the member, on behalf of the government, because the answer was scripted should provide an apology, and Mr. Speaker, you should ask the member for that apology on behalf of the government, unless there is another explanation.

Tamil Community October 28th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about the contributions made by the Tamil community to the fabric that makes up our multicultural nation.

This cultural community has forged roots across the country and has excelled in all areas of Canadian endeavour. Since the 1940s, when the first Tamils immigrated here, the community has grown to about a quarter million. Tamils are teachers, entrepreneurs, bankers, doctors, researchers, lawyers, engineers, professors, athletes, corporate executives, and other such occupations. Education is highly revered in the community, and more than 5,000 Tamil Canadian students are currently pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario alone. Their businesses are a part of the infrastructure of our communities and provide good services and jobs.

Recognizing the burdens imposed by a violent 30-year homeland conflict, we believe it is time that this important community's full contribution to our country is acknowledged, and that steps are taken to ensure that the image of Tamil Canadians is no longer tarnished by hurtful and false stereotypes. Such negative stereotyping in our media and in political discourse is hurtful and unhelpful in our grand Canadian enterprise.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act October 19th, 2010

Madam Speaker, this bill contains several legislative amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I wish the government had done a similar thing in its Criminal Code amendments. Instead of having one or two bills in front of the House, there are half a dozen, each one tweaking some other little piece of the Criminal Code. I know the government has done it for political purposes, but this bill has bundled things together, which I accept.

I am not one to put a price on the cost of public safety. However, with all of these changes, could the member reveal to us the costs of these proposed legislative amendments?