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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was families.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Liberal MP for Mississauga—Brampton South (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

October 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the minister could not have been clearer in answering the question about whether or not veterans' benefits would be cut. The expert witnesses we heard today at committee could not have been clearer on whether or not veterans' benefits would be cut. So I will add my voice to answer the question for the member for Charlottetown and let me say it very simply and very clearly. There will be no cuts to veterans' benefits.

October 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to veterans' benefits, we have been very clear in this chamber. In fact, last Friday, I took two questions. I believe the House leader took a question. We could not have been more crystal clear. We will sustain benefits to our veterans. Clearly, quite simply.

There were some other questions about funeral and burial assistance. Just to reiterate, those assistance programs are provided to veterans with service-related injuries who need it the most, regardless of their military rank or any decorations they have received.

We will continue to work with our stakeholders to respond to their priorities and their concerns. Our government is committed to meeting the needs of our veterans and their families by giving them the care, the services and the financial support they deserve.

I do not think we could be any clearer that, over the last 60 years, no government has done more for our veterans than our Conservative government.

October 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I wish to point out to the hon. members present that this government takes the dignity of Canadian veterans very seriously.

As the minister mentioned in his response to the member, the Department of Veterans Affairs works closely with the last post fund, which delivers the program on its behalf. It works hard to ensure funeral and burial assistance is offered to veterans who have died from injuries related to their service, regardless of their rank or the medals they have received. Help is also available to ensure veterans without the financial resources for a dignified burial and funeral are provided with one. We will continue working with the last post fund and exploring other ways to provide quality services to our veterans.

This, and many other matters, is highly important to the government. The significant improvements made to the new veterans charter that came into effect recently will help the thousands of soldiers who, because of the severity of their injuries or other problems, need more financial assistance.

We have established a minimum pre-tax income of $40,000 a year for ill or injured veterans while they are in rehabilitation or until the age of 65 years if they are not able to be suitably and gainfully employed.

We have also enhanced access to the monthly allowances available under the Pension Act and the new veterans charter to seriously injured or ill veterans. By the way, these monthly allowances are up to $1,631 a month, payable for life.

We have also added a new $1,000 monthly supplement to the permanent impairment allowance to help our most seriously injured or ill veterans who are unable to be suitably or gainfully employed. This supplement is payable for life and, when combined with other enhancements that I have mentioned, ensures that our most seriously injured men and women receive a minimum income of $58,000 each year.

Also, we have created flexible payment options for veterans and Canadian Forces members who are receiving a disability award. The disability award recognizes and compensates for the pain and suffering of an injury or illness. With these new enhancements, recipients can choose to receive the disability award in a lump sum payment, in annual instalments or some combination thereof. We are giving our veterans the right to choose.

These actions prove that our government cares for the health and well-being of our veterans.

Veterans October 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, again, to be clear, we will maintain benefits to our veterans, including the enhanced benefits that our government introduced just two weeks ago. Changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as I mentioned, are focused on improving efficiency, cutting red tape, and improving service to veterans. Our government continues to deliver quality care to our veterans and a key component of that is our operations in Charlottetown.

Veterans October 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, to be very clear, we are not cutting benefits to veterans. We are looking at efficiencies at the department, cutting red tape, and making things much more efficient for our veterans.

When it comes to homelessness and food banks, our government record is incredibly clear. We are the ones who created the new veterans emergency access fund that helps veterans and their families when there are no other funds available to them. We are the ones who have actually doubled the number of operational stress injury clinics.

No government in Canada's history has done more for veterans than the Stephen Harper government.

The Economy October 5th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canada is number one. We are the best country for job-creating investment. Forbes, the influential business magazine, just said so this week. Canada is leading the way as the best country to do business. Our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth.

Forbes' ranking of Canada as the best place in the world for business to grow and create jobs is yet another example of our global economic leadership. It declared that Canada's economy has held up better than most, praising our low-tax plan for Canadian businesses.

However, Canada is not immune to the economic turbulence facing the global economy. That is why the Conservative government is working hard to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan and its job creating measures, like the hiring credit for small businesses.

The last thing Canada's families need now is the NDP's massive job-killing tax hikes that would cost jobs and hurt our economy.

Safe Streets and Communities Act September 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

I reject the premise of the question. I sincerely doubt that Quebecers as a whole would somehow not support allowing victims to show up at parole hearings. I cannot imagine that Quebecers, as an entire group and province, would not want their victims notified when a criminal decides to withdraw his or her participation in a parole hearing at the last minute. Do Quebecers truly want victims to have to show up, go to great expense to get to a parole hearing just to have nobody show up and then have to go all the way back home at great emotional and financial cost to themselves? That is ludicrous. I do not believe that for an instant.

Safe Streets and Communities Act September 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to take a question from my critic on veterans affairs, so I thank him for the opportunity to respond.

In fact, as I mentioned in my speech, an independent panel was commissioned some four years ago to look at the situation in our prisons and it came out with over a hundred individual recommendations. The bill, in its component parts, has been before the House a number of times over a number of years. It has been studied, it has been debated, it has been discussed. At some point I think Canadians want us to act in the best interests of victims.

This report has been gathering dust on bookshelves for over four years. Only two of its recommendations were implemented. We propose, through this comprehensive legislation, to finally implement many of the additional recommendations.

Safe Streets and Communities Act September 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in fact, we just provided $2.4 billion very recently. More to the point though, I think the fundamental issue here is that we are just expressing far too much sympathy for the criminals when in fact most Canadians would want us to express our sympathy for the victims. That is what this bill does.

Safe Streets and Communities Act September 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in the House to add my voice to those of my hon. colleagues who have spoken so passionately in favour of this legislation.

Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act represents sweeping change to laws that we believe are no longer acceptable as they stand. It enacts common sense measures that are long overdue.

On May 2, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe. Part of that means delivering on our promise to strengthen victims' rights, to protect our most vulnerable and to ensure serious criminals serve serious sentences. The legislation before us will go a long way to helping us fulfill our pledge to Canadians.

As we have heard during the debate, the safe streets and communities act contains many important components. These include measures that protect our children from violent sexual offenders, that restrict house arrest and conditional sentences and that target organized crime by imposing tougher sentences on drug dealers.

Today I will focus on the reforms to our correctional system. Specifically, these proposed amendments enshrine in law a victim's right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability, responsibility and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Allow me to give hon. members a brief background to this measure. In 2007 our government undertook an important review process of Correctional Service Canada. This was done through an independent panel, which studied the business plans, priorities and strategies of the agency.

The panel released its final report in December 2007. It was entitled, “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”. It included no fewer than 109 recommendations that fell under five themes: offender accountability; eliminating drugs from prisons; physical infrastructure; employabilty/employment; and moving to earn parole.

This report represented a road map that would help us improve rehabilitation, provide a safer environment for employees and, most important, enhance public safety.

Our government has already made important progress on two key areas laid out by that independent panel, those drug use in our prison system and addressing the problems of offenders dealing with mental illness.

The legislation before us today proposes reforms in four more key areas that were proposed by that independent panel some four years ago. These areas include providing better support for victims of crime, enhancing the accountability and responsibility of offenders, strengthening the management of offender re-integration and modernizing prison discipline.

Let us start with the first item, providing better support for victims of crime. Canadians have told us that victims of crime deserve to have their interests and concerns brought to the forefront. For me, that is certainly the priority.

The amendments we have proposed are in direct response to what we have heard from victims and victims' rights groups across our country. They have asked our government to give them a stronger voice, and we are proud to deliver.

Victims often have to travel from far distances to be in attendance at parole hearings. The problem is that under the existing legislation, offenders can withdraw their participation in the hearing at the last minute, effectively cancelling the parole hearing.

We believe this is fundamentally unfair to victims of crime and we propose to fix this. The bill proposes that if an offender withdraws his or her participation 14 days or less before a hearing date, the Parole Board may still go ahead with the scheduled meeting regardless. It also gives victims the right to find out why the offender has withdrawn his or her attendance at the parole hearing.

These two measures would go a long way to ensuring victims minimize further financial and emotional hardship. Bill C-10 will also ensure that victims have a legal right to attend and make statements at parole hearings.

The safe streets and communities act will also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to allow victims and their families to obtain more information about an offender through Correctional Service Canada and from the Parole Board of Canada. This includes information about the reasons for temporary absences from custody as well as updates on the offender's participation in his or her correctional plan.

Victims would also have the right to request information on why an offender is being transferred between institutions and particularly, whenever possible, advance notice when the offender is being transferred to a minimum security institution. They would also be allowed to obtain information on any serious disciplinary offences that offenders commit while serving their sentence.

Just as importantly, guardians and caregivers of dependents of victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated, will have access to the same information that victims can receive. This is important because these guardians and caregivers play an important role in the ongoing care of victims and their dependents.

In terms of providing victims more of a voice, this legislation is an important step forward that will help put victims rights at the forefront of the corrections and parole system. I think that should be the prime concern of all members of this House.

The second change focuses on the offenders themselves. As I mentioned earlier, a key recommendation from the independent panel was to make offenders more accountable. As such, Bill C-10 contains amendments that will ensure that rehabilitation, as well as reintegration into the community, is a shared responsibility between offenders and Correctional Service Canada.

The question is, what does this mean practically? It means that offenders will be required to conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful of other people and their property. It means that offenders must obey the rules set out by the institution where they are serving their sentence, as well as heed all conditions that govern release.

Above all, it means restoring common sense. Offenders will simply not receive benefits for bad behaviour. Offenders will also be responsible to actively participate in their correctional plan.

As part of these amendments, the legislation allows for the establishment of incentive measures that will promote offender participation in their correctional plan. We firmly believe that with appropriate programs and active participation from both the offender and the corrections system that many individuals can become law-abiding citizens.

The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of an offender into a community is a shared responsibility. We are committed to providing appropriate programs to offenders, but it is only fair to expect offenders to do their part.

That is the message that we have heard consistently from Canadians, from victims, from advocacy groups and from our corrections officers. By enshrining in law the importance of correctional plans, we are sending a message that engaging offenders in their own reintegration into the community is an important part of our correctional system.

Both the offender and Correctional Service Canada have a part to plan in meeting that objective. These reforms will also take particular note of offenders with mental health issues, and ensure that their correctional plans are developed properly. This is reasonable and fair.

The correctional plan will play an important role in the lives of each offender, setting out the expected behaviours, the need to participate in rehabilitation programs, and also the requirement to fulfill all court-ordered financial obligations.

The third part of these reforms involves how offenders are managed in the community. For example, the amendments will give police the power to arrest an offender without a warrant if it appears that he or she is in violation of their release conditions. It will automatically suspend the parole or conditional release of an offender if that individual receives a new custodial sentence.

We come now to the final area of reform related to this component of Bill C-10. This covers amendments to modernize the system of prison discipline. Specifically, two new disciplinary offences will be created: first, knowingly making a false claim for compensation from the Crown; and second, throwing a bodily substance at another person. The reforms will also address disrespectful and abusive behaviour.

We also propose to allow the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada to designate sub-populations. By this I mean moving beyond the traditional designations of minimum, medium and maximum. This will better reflect the diversity of the inmate population and the challenges of managing subgroups that are often incompatible.

These measures will go a long way toward our commitment to transform our corrections system and to put victims first. We believe these changes are needed, and they are needed now.

I urge the NDP to finally stop putting the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding Canadians and support this legislation.